This article was featured in the Counselling, Psychotherapy and Private Practice Newsletter, Spring 2012, pg 13.  Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) Newsletter

“Fearless – trusting myself”… “Right to the heart, where it really matters”… “Insight with clear awareness of who I truly am” – These comments made by my clients helped me recognize just how supportive, helpful, and life altering, learning to live with awareness of one’s heart can be.   Heartfulness informs all that I do, both in my life and in my approach to counselling. It is the heart that leads the way to peace, joy and balance in life.

What is Heartfulness?

In Asian languages,
the word for ‘mind’ and
the word for ‘heart’ are the same word.

So when we hear the word ‘mindfulness’,
we have to inwardly also hear ‘heartfulness’
in order to grasp it even as a concept,
and especially as a way of being.

–  Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness is a technique that is quickly becoming integrated or combined with other approaches in the therapeutic setting.   Mindfulness mediation is the process of intentionally paying attention with present moment awareness.  The attention is placed on thoughts, feelings and body sensations with an attitude of curiosity and non-judgment.  This awareness is also an important part of heartfulness, but the practice of heartfulness takes you further into awareness of your true nature – your heartful nature.

Mindfulness encourages acceptance of self whereas heartfulness encourages honouring of self.  To honour yourself is to have the trust and courage to live from a place of authenticity.  In this place you truly believe that you deserve peace, joy, and balance in life and you are able to love yourself unconditionally.

Essentially, heartfulness is the conscious awareness of self through one’s heart.  The practice of heartful awareness often leads to self-discovery and change.   The choice is made to move beyond conditioning from early on in life to transform and live from a place of authenticity. A person learns how to simply be in the present moment.  Throughout the process there is a sense of freedom that comes from overcoming the human conditions of fear and desire and letting go of attachments.  To simply be in the present moment with heart awareness takes discipline and courage.

I encourage my clients to practice heartful meditation with the focus being on heart awareness and breathing space around the heart.   There is a shift in perspective and discernment that expands one’s awareness.   A unique perception of self develops which can only be found through the heart and one begins to recognize what is needed to live healthily and happily.

The quieting of the mind happens naturally when the heart becomes the main focus.   Heartfulness is an experience – a way of being – rather than a thought or lack of thought.  The mind cannot fully grasp or perceive the awareness that comes through the heart, but does need to be present to witness what the heart communicates.

With heartfulness at the core of therapy, the relationship between the therapist and client is natural and alive.  The connectedness of the heart in the present moment allows for a receptive, client-led, intuitive and responsive environment that is often vibrant, spontaneous and unpredictable, and inherently promotes wellness. It provides a simple yet profound space of trust and freedom to grow and learn.

What can arise from the practice of Heartfulness?

Heartfulness leads the way to:

  • The knowing and honouring of self.
  • The trust that you are enough just by simply being.
  • The courage to be oneself and to live with honesty and integrity.
  • The awareness of what is needed to live healthily and happily.
  • The belief that you deserve peace, joy and balance in your life.
  • The letting go of attachments and the idea of separateness.
  • The ability to let emotions flow through the body with acceptance and non-judgment and then bathe them in the heart to release them.
  • A shift in perspective where you become aware of being lead by the heart and willingly surrender to this inner wisdom.
  • The ability to love yourself unconditionally.

Are you living the talk?

The answer to this question will determine how effectively you can help clients live from a place of heartful awareness.  As you progress in your own personal development your ability to help others will mature.   You can only assist the client to the point that you yourself have developed.   It is important for you to embody the practice of heartfulness in your own life and in your interaction with the client.

If you want your client to be fearless, you must also be open and vulnerable and set an example of how to simply be in a state of open heart awareness.   To be without fear is the basis of wisdom and it takes a clinician who is rooted in heart awareness to bring about the freedom from fear that allows for a deep and creative inner intelligence to emerge.  First and foremost you are making a commitment to yourself and as a result it will carry over into your clinical work.   Approach this practice with the same spirit that you would ask of your clients and from there the process will unfold naturally.